Exclusive: Paul Wall Reflects on Kanye West's 'Drive Slow' & Beyoncé's Grill
The Peoples Champ is back.
Paul Wall stopped by Rap-Up HQ on Monday (Nov. 7) for an in-depth conversation about his new album, Kanye West, and his appreciation for Beyoncé.
During the interview, which aired live on Facebook, the Houston hard-hitter opened up the genesis of his classic verse on Kanye West’s “Drive Slow.”
“That verse was actually the first verse that I wrote when I was writing ‘Sittin’ Sidewayz,'” explained Paul. “Back in those days, I didn’t know how to harness the power of the production sometimes.” In the end, he decided that those rhymes were “hard” but “didn’t really go hand-in-hand with that beat.”
He saved the lyrics for a future collaboration with “someone big like Slim Thug.” But that “someone big” would end up being Kanye West, who Wall connected with after being commissioned to make him some of his famous grills. “I did a lot of features behind them grills,” he added.
Ironically though, “Drive Slow” could have been sidetracked due to a traffic violation. “I got pulled over on the way to the studio,” he said, noting that his driver made an illegal turn.
But the Slab God couldn’t believe the sequence of events was even real. “Y’all gotta be ‘Punk’-ing me right now,” he remembered thinking. “Telling me I’m about to go do a song with Kanye West and I’m getting pulled over by the police. I said, ‘Hell nah. This ain’t real. I cussed the police out thinking I was getting ‘Punk’d.’ I almost ain’t make it.”
Thankfully, he was able to hit the lab in time to complete what’s become one of his most celebrated verses yet.
Of course, Yeezy isn’t the only superstar to receive one of Paul’s grills. In fact, Beyoncé and Jay Z also got their grills from Wall and his business partner TV Johnny. “It’s a great sense of pride to be able to work with Beyoncé,” said Paul. “She’s from Houston. She’s an H-Town hero. Everybody loves her everywhere…But for her to be from Houston and to represent Third Ward the way she does, we’re so proud of her.”
Wall didn’t just make grills for Queen Bey. She also asked him to appear in the music video for “No Angel” — along with Texas rappers like Slim Thug and Bun B — a clip that acts as a tribute to her home state. “That’s definitely a highlight on my reel,” he said.
But that major appearance was also nearly sidelined by trouble with the law. “My boy King Fish [and I] were in the federal court in front of the judge,” he said. “She like, ‘You have your rapper friend with you? What y’all gonna do? Go to the strip club?’ Do drugs when y’all leave here?’ [We said] ‘No, ma’am. We’re in the new latest Beyoncé video.’ She was like, ‘Oh! You in the Beyoncé video? Okay!’ That just changed everything! So, shout out to Beyoncé!”
The judge’s leniency isn’t the only reason Paul is grateful to have been in the “No Angel” vid. He’s also happy to rep for Queen Bey. “She had a vision,” he said. “She wanted to capture Texas culture in the video…All of the rappers, we all came out. I don’t know how they got it together, but it was like, ‘Beyoncé wants you to be there.’ Not ‘Someone else told Beyoncé it’s gonna be a good look.’ [It was] ‘Beyoncé thinks this is a good look for her.’ So she represents for us the same way we represent for her.”
Wall says that genuine love is what has allowed ‘Yoncé to be a hometown hero as much as she’s become a global musical icon. “When was the last time you heard an R&B singer claiming a neighborhood?” he asks. “Much less Beyoncé, but she does it and she does it in her music…She put on like no one else.”
Paul Wall’s new album Houston Oiler, which features the introspective “Thangz Are Crazy” and “Money Don’t Make Me,” is available now. Catch the stories behind some of the LP’s most thought-provoking rhymes and hear an acapella snippet above.
–Words and photos by Andres Tardio